A World of Fear

I remember reading a story once about how in the UK it’s very common to see a group of kids hanging out together and one will be black, one will be Indian and one will be white and it’s the most normal thing in the world. Now obviously in America we have that too. Some of my very best friends are black. My first best friend when I was kid was black. My babysitter growing up was a wonderful Mexican immigrant named Ophelia whose Mexican husband sold cars just like my parents and had kids my age who were also my friends that I hung out with everyday. The difference is that even though I was friends with those kids we still lived in vastly different worlds. In the class system of the UK your race doesn’t matter nearly as much as your socioeconomic bracket. If you are working class your upbringing is largely the same as that of your neighbors regardless of skin color. That’s not to say racism doesn’t exist in the UK because it does. The Brexit was fueled entirely by that. But it’s a different kind of thing. In America you can live next to someone of a different race for 20 years and all things being equal your experiences would still be worlds different just because of skin color. And that is where the problem starts. We may all know each other, but we very seldom understand each other. But it’s so much more than just a lack of understanding. It’s so much more than just a gun problem or police violence problem or mental health problem. We live in a world that has a fear problem.

Minorities in this country, in particularly black people, have had as much taken from them as it is possible to take. Voting rights, access to quality education, fair employment, health care. When you are poor and lack the skills or opportunity to change your situation you become desperate. Desperation turns to fear, fear turns to anger, anger turns to hate, hate turns to violence. Not coincidentally, it’s also that same path that leads to the Dark Side. Heed Yoda’s advice. And thanks to the willful ignorance of our elected representatives and the balls out pursuit of ratings by news organizations we all live in a perpetual state of fear of one another.

We chose men like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Joe Walsh to represent us in government and make choices on our behalf. People turn to men and women like Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Grace for their information. People who have made millions of dollars denying facts, spreading fear and profiting from that chaos. CNN and Fox News spend every waking minute talking about violence and death and destruction. They all spread fear and vile and filth and it poison’s every aspect of our society. White people fear black people so they hire other scared white people to protect them. Now black people fear white police officers. Everyone fears Muslims. Donald Trump fears illegal immigrants. It doesn’t matter that black people just want the same kind of life as their white neighbors or that 99% of Muslims share the same values as all other “good” religions or that they love America as much as we do. It doesn’t matter that those illegal immigrants are themselves fleeing a desperate situation for the sake of their children’s survival.

And because of that fear and desperation we have police officers in this country, not everywhere, but in many places, where they are not trained to protect and serve the public. Instead they are trained to hunt down and exterminate danger in all forms. Those officers themselves are trained in that environment of fear. So when a white cop pulls a black guy over in Minnesota and that black guy informs the officer he has a license to carry a weapon, those already overloaded fear sensors go into overdrive. And even though black people are disproportionately shot by cops, it happens to everyone. On June 25th in Fresno, California an unarmed 19 year old white kid named Dylan Noble was lying on the ground with his hands in front of him when he was shot four times by cops.

The attack on education and the celebration of ignorance in America is even more staggering. In almost every state in this country conservative lawmakers and even some liberal ones are doing everything they can to strip money from the education budget. That is always the first to go. Schools in the deep south are using 20 year old textbooks and have asbestos in the walls. In Texas the Board of Education has mandated that books refer to the civil war as the War of Northern Aggression and play down the role slavery has in our nations history. And of course it should surprise no one to know that budget cuts disproportionately target the poorest schools and the ones with the highest concentration of minority students. In 2012 Rick Santorum, a man with a master’s degree and a JD, called President Obama a “snob” because Obama said it would be a great day when everyone in America had some form of higher education. People would rather listen to Jenny McCarthy talk about vaccines than an actual doctor.

But it’s not just America that this culture of fear exists. It’s happening all over the world every single day. The Brexit vote was fueled by fear and willful ignorance. The Middle East is the way it is because it is very hot and there is no water to drink. There is no water to drink and then a funny looking guy with a different skin tone speaking a different language moves in next door, and now that’s one more person trying to drink your water and he is also there because like you his faith told him that was HIS holy land. Look at Brazil where two weeks before the Olympics are about to start the state police are charging into favelas and killing every petty criminal they can find in an effort to make it to “pacify” the favelas for the white people about to show up.

We haven’t even talked about the global assault on women and LGBTQ people. We know about the Orlando shooting and the 1,500+ pending laws all over this country designed to either restrict health care access to women and gays or imposes restrictions on gay people’s civil rights. In Brazil at least one LGBTQ person is murdered every single day. In almost every country in Africa and the Middle East homosexuality is punishable by death or life in prison. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s bff, has imposed draconian laws on women and the LGBTQ populations.

ALL of it is driven by fear and desperation and a lack of understanding.

There are 7.4 billion people on Earth. 60% live in total abject poverty making less than $2.50 a day. 80% of the world live in a place where the disparity between the rich and poor grows wider and wider. The entire planet is loaded with desperate people and all any of them want is a decent job, a safe place to live and a future for their children. But because they speak differently or have a different skin tone or believe in some kind of bullshit sky voodoo that is no less stupid and irrational than the sky voodoo you believe in we think somehow they are invaders coming to take our shit. So rather than helpingthem make their own space in the world, we deny them every opportunity to do so themselves. We deny them access to have their voice represented in government. We deny them the chance to educate themselves or their children with quality skills. We deny them the opportunities to utilize those skills to better their lives. The oldest, richest, whitest men on Earth impose laws saying who is allowed to marry who or what a woman is or is not allowed to do with her own body. The only thing those old, white, rich men refuse to deny anyone is access to weapons.

I’m not a minority. I am a white American man. I hit the jackpot. I could never begin to understand the struggle of what it must be like to be a black man in America or a woman in America or a gay person anywhere. But I do understand sadness and pain and rage and fear. And I understand what laws can do. Every restriction and every denial that one man places on another on the basis of fear, ignorance or both breeds resentment and anger and that anger in turn drives the same initial fear and ignorance. And when you are desperate with no way out and you watch the news and see police indiscriminately killing people who look an awful lot like you it eventually dawns on you that the only way to stop it from happening to you is to carry the same weapons the cops carry or kill them before they kill you. And it’s all because we don’t understand each other. And by not even trying to understand each other or help each other we come to fear each other and around and around we go. Crime and violence are not the answers. They are symptoms of a sick society.

Dallas. Orlando. San Bernadino. Medina. Newtown. Aurora. Fort Hood. Virginia Tech. Columbine. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Treyvon Martin. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. People act so surprised every time these shootings happen, but why? Look at the America that we have created. What else did any of us expect?